Enhancing Student Learning With Tools to Generate Multiple Problem Sets

Ash Parameswaran (left) and Glenn Chapman (right)

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipients: Glenn Chapman and Ash Parameswaran, School of Engineering Science

Timeframe: September 2011 to August 2012

Funding: $9,600  

Description: In the sciences and applied sciences, solving practical problems in assignments, tests, and examinations is an important part of a student’s education. However, in the internet era it has become very easy for students to obtain and copy solutions to textbook problems without actually doing the work. This practice distorts the measure of student achievement and diminishes the value of an important learning tool. Ideally instructors should create multiple problem sets and solutions for every assignment, but doing so is very time-consuming. This study will apply, in at least two classes, a methodology and tool developed by the authors to generate a large number of numerically different assignments from sets of problems and master solutions in a time-efficient manner. The goal is to fully develop and test the operation of the problem generator concept under real conditions and to determine whether – and at what cost in terms of time and instructor/TA effort – giving multiple problems reduces student copying. The desired outcome is that students will be forced to understand and work through solutions for particular numbers even when they have an example solution. Most importantly, the study will examine whether the approach results in improved student marks and attendance.

Questions addressed:

  • How much time does it take to create the master problem/solution sets?
  • How much extra time is required for marking?
  • How does using a modest number of data sets distributed among students compare to the use of a fully unique set for each student?
  • How do students adapt to this approach?
  • How does this approach affect their marks on mid-terms and the final examination?
  • How do results compare between classes?
  • How does individual student performance with and without the approach compare?

Knowledge sharing:

Chapman, G., & Parameswaran, A. (2012, May). Enhancing student learning with tools to generate multiple problems sets. Poster session presented at the Symposium on Teaching and Learning: Leading Chang @SFU, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC.

View Ash Parameswaran's ISTLD-funded projects:

Enhancing Student Learning with Tools to Generate Multiple Problems Sets (G0003) - with Glen Chapman